De Romanicorum Physicalium 9

SF thoughts.
  • It occurs to me that, if zledo have reflexes on par with a cat—which seems to be three times faster than a human (no word on if their visual cortices are red)—part of what it would mean is that prestidigitation is something quite different for them. Sleight of hand, for them, would never have been a matter of "magic"; they can see the motions involved. Which is not to say they would not find such quick, dexterous work impressive. But they'd probably just consider it a subset of gymnastics.

    Another thing it means is that, while Bill Jordan (fastest draw in the West, or anywhere else, without a custom rig) could see a signal, draw a gun, and hit the target in .27 seconds, a zled can apparently do it in .09 seconds. At least if their hands are as fast as their eyes (the figure above is for "latency" of eye-tracking, which is a different thing from actually moving the hands); saying that they're actually twice as fast as humans, and thus can speed-draw and fire in .135 seconds after seeing the signal, is probably a safer bet.
  • We've apparently already solved the Organ-bank Problem. How? 3D printing. Now, sure, we're not actually at the point of substituting 3D-printed organs for donor-organs, and we probably won't be for decades—but then, neither are we at the point of drastically extending the human life-span with donor organs, and voting death-by-organ-harvest as the penalty for jaywalking, either. So we're actually solving the organ-bank problem before it exists.

    Of course, the trouble here is, like with many of the brilliant advances in real-world technology (*cough*cell phones*cough*), these same things that make life easier remove quite a lot of the opportunity for drama. Of course they do; "drama" is functionally equivalent to "bad things happening to made-up people", and tech that keeps bad things from happening to real people works for the made-up kind too. I now have to rewrite one scene and one line of dialogue, thanks to the fact that, more than likely, there will be no organleggers in the 24th century.

    Perhaps I can make it work with ovaries, though? Black-market ovaries would probably still be worth money, after all (making your own ova, without the organ designed for it, still looks pretty iffy), and any opportunity to treat the surrogacy industry as the human-trafficking follicle-stripping nightmare factory that it is, is all to the good.
  • Another advantage of fueling mecha with methanol, that I didn't get to, is that it doesn't explode (which is helpful, in a military fuel), and also does not produce smoke (which is helpful to firefighting crews—who, remember, can put a methanol fire out with water).

    They probably won't use methanol for robot mules, instead going with the same kind of lithium-air battery as the smaller robots (which means their robot mules breathe!). Methanol is too inefficient for applications smaller than a car. Don't know what their robot mule would look like, either; ours is a prototype, after all.
  • Was thinking about the "binary gender" kerfuffle in SF-fandom, and from there about xenobiology. "Intersex" (I hate that name: "both" isn't the same as "between", and we also happen to have the perfectly good words "androgyne" and "freemartin" for people with such a condition) is very rare. Bizarrely enough one of the major forms, Klinefelter syndrome (XXY-ness), sometimes shows no symptoms—not even sterility, people have fathered or borne children while having XXY chromosomes (which I think clinches what sex they "really" were). The sterile "intersex", as seen in "freemartin" livestock, is apparently the result of chimerism.

    Interestingly, no equivalent of Klinefelter syndrome exists in birds. Or none's been observed, anyway. We think a ZZW embryo (birds, remember) miscarries, which in birds' case presumably means the egg never hatches. It occurs to me that using an X0 or Z0 chromosomal system means you never get a Klinefelter-type situation, either, since two Xs is female and two Zs is male, and completely missing the sex-chromosome is a different thing entirely (not sure what, if anything, that looks like, in mammals). There's also presumably no Klinefelter equivalent for crocodiles, since they have no sex chromosomes, and sex based on the temperature of their nests. How about monotremes? They have ten sex-chromosomes, wonder what happens when one duplicates.
  • Technically sci-fi related 'cause of the social sciences, and worldbuilding: a whole lot of things are, to use an unfortunate phrasing, "culturally relative". What I mean is, for example, Toyotomi Hideyoshi did, indeed, abolish slavery (apart from convict-labor), well before anyone in the West did (the second time—the West had resurrected slavery in the 1400s after abolishing it in the 700s).

    But, though Hideyoshi could claim Japan was not a slave-state, while Spain and especially its colonies were...the fact remains that farmers in Japan, though ostensibly free, didn't have rights that slaves in Spanish colonies did. It wasn't legal for anyone to just up and kill a Spanish-colonial slave (though it was relatively easy to cover up, on a big estate with little direct oversight); the entire military class of Japan was allowed to murder farmers on very little pretext, no coverup required.
  • In one way, Karakuri Odette is the most realistic depiction of robots ever. Why? Because she's constantly running out of battery. It gets worse when she's stressed, which makes perfect sense, since uncertainty would increase the load on her system. Just like how cellphones drain faster when they have to hunt around for a signal, robots could easily drain faster when their situational-analysis and reaction programs—which is what "emotions" are—are unable to judge clearly. For a robot (and arguably for us too), "anxiety" can be thought of as the situational-analysis program hunting for solutions that may not exist, like a cellphone searching for signal till it goes dead.

    However, all the scenes with her ugly backpack battery are silly—plainly, you just disguise the spare battery as an oxygen tank. Give her an output plug inside her nose, and let her wear a breathing tube over her nose, then the obvious cover-story is that she's got a respiratory ailment, and has to go get supplemental oxygen once in a while. I don't know if anyone does actually get supplemental oxygen on an intermittent basis, but it's certainly a better cover-story than "this is a weird metal backpack". (Also? Put wheels on the damn thing and let her roll it around, rather than draining extra power by carrying it!)

    Another aspect of realism is the Professor's delay in waterproofing her, and the length of time it takes him to manage it. Realistically, waterproofing many electronics (especially computers) could involve problems with cooling, since a fully sealed device can't be air-cooled. It never does say that that's why Odette's waterproofing takes so long, but it would realistically be a factor.
  • Been re-reading Fahrenheit 451; it's kinda a slog with Bradbury's pyrotechnic prose, but what do you want from a quasi-Beatnik? The thing I realized most of all was, "Equilibrium is plainly the knockoff produced by people who couldn't get the rights to make a movie of this." Think about it—the "Grammaton Clerics" are off-brand Firemen, through and through; the girl he meets on that one job is his Clarice.

    The difference, of course, is that Fahrenheit 451 is a thoughtful piece of soft SF, whereas the screenplay for Equilibrium was demonstrably produced by literally shoving the hands inside of country hams and pounding on a keyboard. (Not a movie you would describe as "subtle", is what I'm getting at.) I think the ham-pounding technique was also used on the writers' heads on occasion—or you come up with an explanation for "Gun Kata"!
  • I think, given the 40-58 kilogram (if not even higher) loads per soldier that we're seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan, that my Peacekeepers wear Soft Exosuits to help with the forces necessary. They'd probably go on over the regular pants, so..."exo-suit chaps"? "Exo-chaps"? "Soft lifting-exoskeleton chaps"? I kinda like that last one. That, of course, is the regular Peacekeepers; the VAJRA troopers (like in those short-stories on my DeviantArt) use something much more extensive, in hard suits. They can move almost as fast as normal while wearing many kilos of armor and carrying heavy weapons. If you noticed, they have coil-Vulcans as their squad automatics, meaning they not only can carry around that gun, and its ammo and power-supply, but can stand up to its recoil.

    Not sure if the typical zled soldier will have anything to help him carry his gear (in full armor, of course, the suit makes it so he might as well be naked and empty-handed for all the load he feels). Zledo often carry less; among many other things, their tech is more miniaturizable. Also their biology means they need less water, relative to their mass, than humans. (Cats, for example, are much better at managing their moisture than humans. And zledo have skins more like those of birds or lizards, which hold moisture in much better than mammal skin.) Also, a major thing in our militaries carrying so much stuff is taking "better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" to an extreme, which people without our liability-culture and belief that everything can be made "safe" probably wouldn't be quite so interested in.

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